Cable television is dying. But if you look at the earnings report Comcast released today, it's clear that cable companies are thriving nonetheless.
Over the past year, the company reports that it lost about 155,000 pay television customers. But during this same period revenue from pay television customers actually rose one percent due to higher prices. That's a sign that Comcast isn't really trying to save pay television as a long-term business proposition. The company isn't lowering prices to try to beat reduced customer demand, it's accepting that this will keep shrinking and they're simply trying to squeeze the customer base for all their worth.
But the really good news for America's #1 cable company is that high-speed internet revenues grew 9.6 percent and they have over 1 million more billable internet customers than they had a year ago.
Comcast still has more television customers than broadband customers, but those numbers are getting very close and the lines should cross very soon.
It all adds up to the pay television business being a fairly unusual case of technological transformation. There's a huge shift taking place, but very little disruption. The companies that own the broadband internet infrastructure are by and large the same companies that own the pay television infrastructure. And the nature of this kind of utility-type industry is that there isn't much competition, so the pace of change tends to be relatively slow. Comcast spent an impressive $1.64 billion on capital investments in the third quarter, but also an equally impressive $1.33 billion on dividends and share repurchases.